SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
A federal appeals court reluctantly dismissed a climate lawsuit yesterday. It was filed in 2015 by nearly two dozen young people who sought to force the federal government to be more aggressive in the fight against climate change. But NPR's Nathan Rott reports the court said those efforts should be directed elsewhere.
NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: The premise of the lawsuit was simple and sweeping. The federal government knows and has known for decades that fossil fuel consumption is causing the world to warm but has taken little action. That warming, the 21 young plaintiffs argued, threatens their constitutional right to life, liberty and property. Here's Levi Draheim, the youngest plaintiff, at a rally in 2013.
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LEVI DRAHEIM: I have personally had to evacuate my home because of hurricanes, and I have seen changing weather and more and more hot days. So that's why it is so important to move forward with this trial.
ROTT: The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals largely agreed with the plaintiffs, saying that action is needed. But they said, quote, "reluctantly, such relief is beyond our constitutional power." Meaning, the young plaintiffs would have to go elsewhere to try to compel the government to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
JENNIFER RUSHLOW: The Ninth Circuit decision is kind of a copout.
ROTT: Jennifer Rushlow is an environmental law professor at the Vermont Law School.
RUSHLOW: The court used its considerable discretion to get rid of the case and really toss the climate hot potato back to the executive and legislative branches, the more political branches.
ROTT: Philip Gregory, who served as co-counsel for the plaintiffs, says right now the political system is not the answer.
PHILIP GREGORY: Because as we all know, this Congress and this president will do nothing to ameliorate the climate crisis.
ROTT: So he says the plaintiffs will petition for review by the full Ninth Circuit in the coming months.
Nathan Rott, NPR News.
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